A Career in Locum Tenens: Advice From VISTA Clinicians
Whether you’re considering locum tenens or just starting your journey, you can learn a lot from experienced locum tenens clinicians. These three clinicians chose VISTA because of the personalized service, assistance with licensing and certifications, and location flexibility. Here’s what they had to say:
Dr. Mark Rholl, a recent retiree, used to work locum tenens assignments in various locations. Here’s why he considered locum tenens:
“I was at a meeting sitting next to someone a little younger who mentioned what a great experience he had working locum tenens. That piqued my interest, along with the fact that it could be part-time, I could work 2-6 months, then have some time off to be with family or to do some traveling.”
Dr. Rholl worked with VISTA from 2012 to 2018, which gave him an opportunity to travel and explore new communities. His wife, Carol, usually accompanied him on his assignments, and together they were able to visit places like Chinle, AZ, Ignacio, CO (with the Northern Navajo), and in rural Hana, HI. On advice for a doctor considering locum tenens:“If you’re looking for interesting experiences, we highly recommend locum tenens for physicians just starting out who want to do some exciting things before settling down to a regular job. It’s also a great option for physicians like me who are nearing retirement and just want some extra time to explore and take breaks in between assignments. But, if a physician is married, they should make sure their spouse feels comfortable in new situations. You have to be ready to enjoy these new experiences together. When you go to a new area, try to understand what’s going on, then jump in and get involved in the community. Try to learn from them and let them know you’re interested in learning from them.”
According to Dr. Rholl, locum tenens are a viable option for clinicians at every stage of their career. However, for someone just finishing their residency, locum tenens may sound out of reach. Dr. Guo, a former VISTA hospitalist, took the leap and did just that.
“It was easy thanks to VISTA. I started the application process early, in January/February of my graduating year, and I would recommend that to everyone going through the process. There are a lot of initial forms to complete so give yourself ample time. Other things like contacting various sites and getting a few state licenses can take time as well.”
Dr. Guo enjoyed the flexibility that locum tenens offers, as well as the stability that comes with working with a full-service agency like VISTA. While he had the freedom to work when and how many shifts he wanted, he also had the opportunity to plan his assignments in a way that reduced any gaps in employment. The best advice Dr. Guo can give a first-time locums tenens provider starting a new assignment:
“Plan in advance. When looking for a site, the most important thing for me is EMR (electronic medical record). I want it to be something I’m already familiar with as this will affect my productivity more than anything. After that I look at location. Somewhere close to a major airport is important to minimize commute time and the chance of delays. During the time I’m working, I start to plan for my next assignment to minimize unwanted gaps between contracts. It helps to have one or more sites that have an ongoing flexible need without minimum monthly commitments. I can modulate the number of shifts I take based on how busy I am.”
Like many clinicians, Dr. EmmaLeigh Smith was drawn to locum tenens for the flexibility, work-life balance, and travel opportunities it offered. Since landing her first assignment right out of residency, Dr. Smith has worked locum tenens for over seven years. Her father did something similar in his work as a pharmacist, so she knew a little about what to expect. But working with VISTA, our recruiters have guided her through the entire process – from start to finish – to help her land the perfect roles. Here’s what she had to say about her experience:
“I absolutely love getting to travel and set my own schedule. I get to pick where and when I want to work. You can’t beat that! You need to be open to various locations and types of work… In my experience, if you are flexible and can fit into the current clinic mold without trying to change everything at once, it makes everything a whole lot easier.”
Locum tenens can be an exciting and valuable experience for both new and experienced clinicians. Take the advice of these three clinicians to determine if a career path in locum tenens is right for you.